Exploiting My Baby* *Because It's Exploiting Me

Sitting Stretch Mark Shiva

General StuffTeresa Strasser60 Comments

Living Like Sanford, You Big Dummy. I have a stretch mark.

This is not a big deal. Or rather, I wish I were a person for whom this was not a big deal, but after spending two hours online last night in the wee hours looking at pictures of stretch marks and doing research, I realize I do not subscribe to the Warrior Woman thing about "my trophy" and "all worth it" and "this was my baby's home for nine months." Fuck that.

Did I mention I just have the one? Still, it's red and loud like a blinking, broken arrow, an arrow pointing right to the place where my vanity lives, a tenant I expected to be evicted and replaced by nurturing, maternal “don’t care how I look because I’m so in love with motherhood” lady. Whether depth and vanity can share a pad without finishing off each other’s peanut butter and taking poor phone messages, I have no idea.

I just know I took a long look at the mark in the mirror in the middle of the night and I had a choking, irrational cry.

Moreover, most women get a rush of stretch marks right about now, just before birth, and I can see several more appearing on the left side of my stomach, crouching, laying in wait to ambush my collagen and confidence.

Life just feels like what happens while I wait for more stretch marks. My goddamn dermis is like a ticking time bomb.

If you search long enough, you can find anything online, like sites that encourage moms to post pictures of their bellies, with or without stretch marks, and tell their stories. It was all very disturbing, the women who looked like they had been clawed across the abdomen by a giant, angry bear and their own genetics. I want to find them valiant, but just see my own mother, practically disfigured by groups of chunky, textured, silvery marks. It never seemed to bother her much, which made it bother me more, and maybe the entire process of looking in the mirror and seeing my mother triggers a deep Freudian crisis.

imagesThere were the photos, too, of the women who escaped unscathed, not a mark on their bellies. Well, goooooood for you, said my mind in the quiet calm of the Koreatown night, goooood for you. Like Christian Bale yelling at his DP, gooooood for youuuuuuuuuuuu snidely said my mind.

I worry about big things, too.

I worry all the time about the baby being born deaf or blind or not making it at all. I worry that I have tempted fate with my Diaper Champ and hand-me-down crib and drawers full of onesies, as if to say to the universe that I take it for granted I will get a healthy baby. A few times a day, I flash on an image of myself sitting alone in the nursery I was scared to furnish, hugging the orange dinosaur my mom knitted, crying in the corner because of some unspeakable tragedy rendering all of this baby stuff useless. The whole thing is extra poignant, rows of baby socks with no tiny feet to put in them. I know, it’s twisted, but don’t accuse me of only worrying about the stupid shit.

Don’t worry. As a Jew, I have enough room in my heart for all levels of anxiety. The shelves are stocked with sizes from XS to XXL.

When the doctor first told me the baby was “frank breech,” meaning head up and rump down, I was bummed about needing a scheduled C-section, disappointed about the controlled calm of appointment birthing. No water breaking at Starbucks, manic drive to the hospital, no ice chips and sweating and gruesome rite of passage labor story.

Now I think, why the fuck did labor seem like such a mystical adventure?

I just want this kid out so I can sleep on my back without suffocating, roll over in bed without sounding like Fred Sanford, not be congested anymore, smoke a couple cigarettes on a Friday night or when I’m writing and need to feel like Norman Mailer. I want to drink a freezing cold martini, take a Xanax, fit into my shoes, schedule toxic beauty treatments. Most of all, I want to be done wondering if the kid is alright, if he’ll survive his journey out of my body, if I did a good enough job carrying him for these past nine months, if he got all his Omega fatty acids and protein and Folic and fat and brain stimulation. Like probably everyone who is 39 weeks pregnant for the first time, I’m ready for this to be over. I just want to hold my baby.

Maybe for now, for right now, as I await either a C-section in a few days  - or a vaginal birth if Buster suddenly decides to right himself - it’s easier to focus on one single stretch mark. There’s only so far it can rip you apart.

This facile psychological interpretation not only buys me a one-way ticket to obvious-ville, it makes me look so much better than a woman who hyperventilates over a stretch mark or two.

Or maybe a stretch mark freak out is simply that. The fact is these suckers are truly irreversible, and I just need a second to process.

They can send a man to the moon, transplant a human face, smash an atom with a linear accelerator, air-condition a condo in Phoenix, make sure you always know exactly where you are in space with a $200 GPS the size of a wallet. Yet they can’t really do much about the scars of motherhood.

Every transition involves a loss, even if you are blessed enough to find yourself pregnant and on the eve of motherhood and the luckiest darn 39 year-old alive, there is still something left behind, and even if that something is just a silly old image of yourself in a bikini looking like Phoebe Cates in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (which you never, ever did) one thing gives way to another and it can’t hurt to stop and waive goodbye.

In my own way, I have to sit shiva, grieve a bit for what was and allow myself to be fully and fairly terrified and inspired by what’s coming. That or just get some self-tanner. Both are miracles.